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What Is Bacillus Cereus Food Poisoning?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Bacillus cereus is a type of bacteria known to cause certain types of food poisoning. Cases of Bacillus cereus food poisoning can be divided into two categories. Starchy foods, particularly rice, contaminated with this bacteria will usually cause a person to experience nausea and vomiting. Other types of foods contaminated with this bacteria may cause symptoms like diarrhea. Bacillus cereus is very resistant to heat, so proper food storage is important when trying to prevent Bacillus cereus poisoning.

The Bacillus cereus bacteria can be found in soil. Some strands of this bacteria are considered to be beneficial, and they are used to create antibodies. Other strands, however, can cause people to become very ill, if they are ingested. Bacillus cereus contamination of food will usually cause a severe bout of Bacillus cereus food poisoning.

The first type of B. cereus food poisoning is usually contracted through contaminated starchy food, including potatoes, pasta, and rice. The symptoms of this type of Bacillus cereus poisoning usually begin a couple of hours after contaminated food is ingested. Symptoms usually include nausea and vomiting, and they typically only last several hours.

Fried Rice Syndrome is an excellent example of this type of Bacillus cereus food poisoning. Rice is often contaminated with this type of bacteria. If the rice is not refrigerated properly after being steamed, the bacteria thrives and multiplies rapidly. The hot and quick frying method used to make fried rice is also not enough to kill the bacteria.

Another type of Bacillus cereus food poisoning may not show up until several hours after a person ingests the contaminated food. In fact, it may not cause any symptoms until the next day in some cases. Meats, seafood, vegetables, and dairy products contaminated with this types of bacteria can cause nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.

Bacillus cereus is one of the only types of bacteria that can form endospores. These are spores that form inside the structure of a certain bacteria. They are generally resistant to heat, making Bacillus cereus somewhat difficult to eradicate from contaminated food.

Treating food poisoning caused by this bacteria usually requires medical attention, especially if the symptoms are severe. Mild cases of this type of food poisoning, however, may be treated at home. Resting is usually recommended, and patients are also advised to drink plenty of clear liquids to prevent dehydration. An antibiotic may also be given.

Preventing Bacillus cereus food poisoning can be accomplished by implementing proper food safety. Foods should be washed and cooked thoroughly prior to consumption. Foods also should not be allowed to set out at room temperature. Instead, they should be stored in a refrigerator until they are ready to be cooked or eaten.

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Discussion Comments
By Scrbblchick — On Jan 22, 2014

@Pippinwhite: I've heard that, too. I also remember seeing something in a "Heloise" or "Dear Abby" column about a young man who got food poisoning from eating pancake mix that had been around too long. Suppose it's the same bacteria? It would make sense.

By Pippinwhite — On Jan 21, 2014

I saw something on a cooking show -- I think it was "America's Test Kitchen" -- about the dangers of keeping potato salad out of temperature, and how it's a common culprit of food poisoning. If I'm not mistaken, the person said the potatoes were the danger, not the mayonnaise or mustard dressing, although these are what usually take the blame. I wonder if he was referring to bacillus cereus, since it tends to hang out in starchy foods.

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